Incoming Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat: Duterte warned me against corruption

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President Duterte and Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) — Incoming Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat is ready to take on the challenge of President Rodrigo Duterte to keep her name clear from corruption issues.

Puyat on Wednesday said Duterte told her she is ideal for the job because there are no corruption allegations against her despite working for the government for over a decade.

"'I think you are perfect. You are honest. No corruption,'" she told CNN Philippines.

She added, "The only message of the President to me when I accepted it was, 'I don't want any corruption. It is one of the controversial departments (Department of Agriculture) and you've kept your name clean. I'm confident you can keep it the same way.'"

Puyat said Duterte informed her Tuesday night that she was being appointed to replace resigned Tourism Chief Wanda Teo.

She has been working with the Department of Agriculture for 12 years, and will be leaving her post as agriculture undersectetary to become the tourism department head. She is also a former consultant at the Presidential Management Staff during the Arroyo administration. Puyat, who has a Master's degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines, handles agri-business and organic agriculture as agriculture undersecretary.

She said she was in shock when the President offered her the post on Tuesday.

"I was briefing him on the rice situation, then he suddenly asked me. I was surprised. He told me, 'Have you heard that Secretary Teo resigned? I think you are fit for that job.' I thought he was joking because the president sometimes jokes around," she said.

"I will not disappoint him (Duterte)," the incoming Tourism Chief said.

One of Duterte's campaign promises was to eradicate corruption in government, and he has said he would fire officials at the "first whiff of corruption."

Puyat, the daughter of former senator Alberto Romulo, said she will focus on farm tourism and culinary tourism as the new head of the department.

"Because of my background, we should continue what's already working and what I'm familiar with," she said.